BOZEMAN, Mont. - The first cases of the U.K. variant of COVID-19 in Montana have been identified.

According to the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS), the cases were confirmed on March 3, and all three Montanans are from Gallatin County.

All three individuals have since recovered.

In a press release sent March 4, the Gallatin City-County Health Department provided additional details, saying based on contact tracing data associated with the cases, the following is known:

  • All three cases are Gallatin County residents and live in different parts of the county.

  • All three cases are under 50 years old.

  • One case was hospitalized but is no longer in the hospital.

  • All of the cases are recovered and have been released from isolation.

  • The health department has not identified any evident connection between the three cases.

  • None of the cases reported any recent travel history.

“Health Officer Matt Kelley said the lack of connection between the cases and absence of travel history are indications that the variant form of the virus may be circulating widely in Montana, a fact that should not be surprising considering the variant has been detected in well over 40 other states,” the release reads. “He said the identification of the cases should be a reminder to all Montanans why it’s important to continue taking precautions to prevent spread, including avoidance of large groups where social distancing is difficult, continued use of face coverings in public settings, staying home when sick, frequent and thorough hand washing and getting the vaccine when available to you.”

The presence of the variant strain also reinforces the importance of public health rules – such as requiring use of face coverings in public settings -- that help slow spread and protect the most vulnerable Kelley noted in the release.

“These measures are vitally important to protecting the thousands of Montanans who do not yet have access to the vaccine,” Kelley said.

DPHHS says they have been preparing for the variant and have been conducting surveillance for COVID-19 variant strains for several weeks and that they’re not surprised.

“All Montanans are encouraged to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to you,” DPHHS wrote. “And, continue to wear a mask to protect yourself and others, practice social distancing by staying six feet apart, stay home if you are sick, cover your cough, wash your hands often, and avoid large crowds.”

Article updated March 4 with information from a release from the Gallatin City-County Health Department

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